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Mid-Fifties slices of life and landscape in Philadelphia and surrounding towns. With excellent color footage of downtown scenes, neighborhoods, the Mummers Parade, Levittown, factories in Camden, New Jersey, and many other subjects that can no longer be seen. Producer and Director: Cal Jones. Cinematographer: Ralph Lopatin. Writer and Narrator: Dick McCutchen.
This movie is part of the collection: Prelinger Archives
Producer: WPTZ Motion Picture Unit
Audio/Visual: Sd, C
Keywords: Philadelphia, Pa.; Cities: U.S., Northeast; Levittown, Pa.
Creative Commons license: Public Domain
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Subject: My father would have enjoyed it...
...My Father grew up in Bristol but went to school and worked in 'Philly'. One of my earliest recollections of just him and I at an exhibition called the 'Second Sun'. He used to like to tell me about the trolley's(they went every where) and the 'side work' he did as an electrician, pulling wire through old gas lamp pipes(yes the elbows, too), (re)wiring old and new houses built by his carpenter friends. Work was so good back then he never had less than a thousand dollars in his wallet for material to work the weekends to support the five of us. During the week he worked for many years for Scott Engineering, mostly trouble-shooting electrical problems in a lot of the factories in and around Philly.
In the movie words describe that time period was the most prosperous. I truly believe that, at least for the average citizen of the time.
I was 12 years old in l955, and Miracle on the Delaware brought back some wonderful memories for me. I lived on Mascher St. just down from Girard Ave. Just a couple of blocks away was the Jumbo Movie Theater at Front & Girard. I used to walk to the Adaire School Elementary School, and come home every day for lunch then walk back for the 2nd half of school. I attened Penn Treaty Junior High School just another brock from the Adaire School. Fanillie's Ice Cream shop was across Girard Ave. I was not allowed to cross without a grownup because it was so wide and busy. The 15 trolly went up and down Girard Ave. I have fond memories of my friends from back then, wish I could find them. After age 12 we moved to the Olney Section of Philly where I attended Lowell Elem, then Olney High School. Last time I visted the areas was back in 1993
Ray Dolan -
Subject: I was there in '55
This brings back many great memories of growing up in the 50's in Philly.I could walk to Fairhill Elementary,and to Northesat High.Getting to Stetson Junior high involved a trolley on 5th Street north to Allegheny avenue,then a transfer east to "B' street.
I was 18 in 1955 and was already on my quest for Philly'S best cheese steak!I had the use of my brother Bud's 41 Ford convertible,while he served two years in the Army.This helped in my search for the best steak and girls,which ranged from Pat's in south Philly to Tony and pete's in andalusia,Pa,JC Ranch,Wyoming ave. circle,grunza's 2nd and Venango to Emily's at 22nd and Indiana! I rated the last as BEST!
One last mention about foof in the 50's.I only knew of one pizzaria,which was Charlies at 7th and Glenwood in what was a mini "little Italy". It was know as "tomato Pie" then.
If anyone remembers Ray Dolchanczyk,AKA Ray Dolan,please email at firstname.lastname@example.org If I get favorable resonse,I will talk more about 50's Philly!...Ray
Subject: Someone who lived through the times
The clip bought back so many memories for me. The cloths that people wore and the thoughts of so many friends that I can no longer speak with. Going downtown with a date to the Fox theater. Going to ball games and now hearing any vulgar words. Girls dressed in decent clothing. Dances on Saturday night at local Catholic Churches. Oh Yes the times were different and although the younger generation revitalized some of the neighborhoods(not Hoods as they are prone to say) they will never know the innocence of the times nor the safety of the streets nor the only drug available was alcohol. Oh how I year for one more visit to Philadelphia of the 30's 40's and 50's. I would Love to take one more trip on the Wilson Line or Ride the roller coaster in woodside park or take a leisurely ride on the open air Philadelphia park trolley or wlk through the neighborhood listening to the ball game through an open window on North Smedley Street.
Subject: Facinating reverie
I was 13 years old in 1955. I remember traveling throughout the city on the PTC-either by trolley if I was heading into 'Town', or by bus to West or South Philly, or to Germantown. My family had relations who required visiting all over the city.
I remember the sounds and smells, and the ability to roam all over the place without any fear of harm. I remeber going into Independence Hall, and actually touching the Liberty Bell. I remember sticking my head under the edge of the bell and looking up, and wondering if the thing would fall and cut my head off.
It was scary, but I did it anyway-everytime I went there-which was often, because once a week I went to the Allergy clinic at Jefferson Hospital for testing and treatment. When I was finished, I would wander all over Center City-even to walking across the Ben Franklin bridge.
I used to walk past Lummis Peanutbutter factory when I did that.
There is more-lots more, but it's all gone. The past is past and can't be gotten back.
Subject: Loving the past
Being only 1 in 1955, I surely don't remember this. But looking back as I grew older, I loved the people that talked of the past, that gave me a true understanding of what took place where I lived, before I got there.
I love Philadelphia, I love Fishtown, and this little slice of the past only confirms we are moving in the right direction.
Whether we like it or not, both Camden & New Jersey is part of us, we share the waterway ( Delawre river) that has supported both Cities and States.
I am proud to be a part of a great area, and City... Kudo's to Philly, for being the best, the people, the food, the neighborhoods.
We got it all over New York. no worries..
If we didn't have Bethlehem, Camden, Bucks County, our fathers/mothers wouldn't have had jobs... Hail compaines that gave them work for us to eat...
and a future so great as we have now, from their hard work.... and due diligence....
Subject: This was well before my time, but it still saddens me as well.
If twenty-something transplants have revitalized a few neighborhoods, great. They are not saddened by what no longer is. They weren't there. They didn't grow up amidst neighbors who had earlier watched their parents grow up. To them, Philadelphia is new. They are rootless, and for now at least, Philadelphia is their city. For me, Philadelphia is a place of what used to be. My chosen screen name underscores that point. But hey, Philadelphia remains the only locale in which I've been shot. That should count for something.
Subject: Resurgence: Philadelphia IS, Not WAS a Beautiful City
Ray Mac Williams, with all due respect, when is the last time you were in Philadelphia, 1968?
"Will this area ever have a resurrection? A renaissance? Where are people who will take hold and give this region a future?" That statement tells me you know nothing of the current city, or are living in a nostalgic haze that makes you want everything to return to 1955.
The people who "take hold and give this region a future" are the 20-40 somethings (I am 50, BTW) that populate the city. People who grew up in the suburbs but wanted the richness of an urban experience. For the last 30+ years these folks have taken blight areas and non-descript, dreary blue-collar neighborhoods and turned them into VERY desirable (real estate ain't cheap there) enclaves. It is the "old guard" Philadelphians that left these 'hoods for dead and moved to Jersey.
Have you seen the vibrancy of Northern Liberties, with its very cool retro condo towers? The Delaware River, where the industrial grittiness of the shipyards and warehouses you spoke of, gave way to luxury waterfront condos in it's place. Center City has never been cleaner than it is right now, graffiti vanishes overnight, trash doesn't blow around your ankles as it did 25 years ago. Long neglected 13th Street is once again a desirable street to live and dine on, thanks to developer Tony Goldman. From the perfectly preserved historic beauty of Queen Village, Washington Square West and Society Hill, to the cool NY style lofts and bustling nightlife of Olde City. The Graduate Hospital area is in the midst of revitalization, and is coming along very quickly, I'd guess it's about 80% rehabbed, can't get a cheap home there anymore. Even the long time urban decay of Point Breeze is seeing gentrification. I remember in the late 70's/early 80's, you couldn't give away a house in Queen Village, now you can't buy one for less than a half-million. How about Manayunk's Main Street with it's hip bars and restaurants? Where I live, Bella Vista/Passyunk Square, where these young folks have breathed life into a decaying South Philly. Take a look at the resurgence of Passyunk Ave., with its gastropubs, funky shops, byob's and restaurants that are top notch. Ten years ago, this was a dying retail strip.
Speaking of restaurants, Philly is a foodie destination, recognized as one of the best culinary cities in the country, with respected restaurateurs like Stephen Starr and Jose Garces keeping the scene lively.
I'm just scratching the surface of what this great city has to offer, so many other cool neighborhoods to live in. Yes, Philadelphia is a very livable city. You need to catch up, Mr. Williams
BTW, I know it's an old post, but to rsmith02, yes, Camden and Chester are "a partially abandoned deindustrialized slum", but don't include Bethlehem on that list. Bethlehem is a charming little city, that sports a really cool, vibrant downtown.
Bethlehem has indeed survived the closing of the mills.
John D. Nagele
Subject: Remembering WPTZ
Thanks to all who had the thoughtfulness to pass on this delicious slice of irreplaceable history.
Will this area ever have a resurrection? A renaissance? Where are people who will take hold and give this region a future?
I remember as a child the presence of WPTZ (and its sister W3XE) in PHILCO Plant "C" at "C" and Tioga Streets. The stations were broadcasting experimentally -- first from a stocky wooden tower and then from its stately steel-structure replacement -- from atop the PHILCO building. The tall steel tower featured a gleaming vertical neon sign proclaiming in six huge green letters -- P H I L C O -- to all who traveled the main route of the Pennsylvania Railroad through Northeast Philadelphia. (Yes, I grew up along the Main Line, albeit the section that cut through upper Kensington.)
I remember, too, WPTZ televising semipro baseball games at the ballpark along Tioga Street from "D" to "E" Street. It was a great pastime for kids to watch the PHILCO engineers and technicians wrestling to place huge television cameras and the attached fat cables behind home plate and on the roof of the grandstand. This was the late 1930s and indeed it was experimental TV as no one in the area owned (or could buy) a receiver, with the exception of PHILCO execs and some hobbyists, who built their own sets.
Unlike the dock workers in the video, PHILCO did not experience labor peace during the 1930s -- but that is another story.
All the Best!
Ray Mac Williams
Subject: OK, but...
Very neat, but...
"equally prosperous Camden"????? (boy, that sure has changed!!!)
...and they still made steel (the backbone of America!) in Bethlehem!!! I guess were spineless now! The Chinese are our backbone.
...but the title kind of threw me. I was waiting for the miracle! I thought they were going to tell you how the infant had fallen off a boat into the Delaware River and been rescued and be doing just fine. You know, something like that.
You mean that's IT?!?!? Philly IS the miracle???? Well, having been born (two years prior to this production) and spent my first 30 years there, I dunno.
Subject: Get Me A Barf Bag....
The Most Pretentious Film On Site....Overbearing Narration....Nice Old Cars & Trucks Tho.............And I Would'nt Marry That Woman Eating The Hot Dog! As For Piersall, I Watched Him In Fenway As A Boy.He Was A Nut Case...Sitting Down In The Outfield.Sox Soon Sent Him Packing To Cleveland..Where Fear Did Strike Out..Another City Of Sport's Losers..!
Subject: Charming nostalgic film
....done in the hokey style of the day.
It's a shame Philadelphians don't realize how good they've got it here--or maybe they DO and want to keep it to themselves.
Most people live in the suburbs.
Suburbs are suburbs, no matter where you live.
Center City--now THAT'S the life!
New York City, D.C., mountains, shore......
Aside from the city itself, we're smack in the middle of the most populated part of the East Coast.
After the Navy, then college, my car broke down as I was passing by and I liked that people LIVED downtown (like Europe and Asia) and thought I might give it a try--in 1972. Now the only way I'll leave is in a pine box.
Let the old folks complain about Philadelphia's past glory. There's plenty more to come.
Subject: This Movie Rocks!!
5/5! Way bettern than that overrated peice of crap known as "Rockchester - City of Quality", this short is FUN!! Great stock footage galore!
Subject: One of the greats!!
A single toy from Allentown's Hess Bros...$5000
Costume for Mummer's Day parade..many thousands of dollars apiece
films from Prelinger Archives...priceless!
Whatever you do, don't miss the panoramas in the review below this one! When the frames are overlapped you can see the amazing detail that is in these films.
Something unique that I noticed about "Miracle on the Delaware" is a very gradual shift in the color gamma, so pink slowly turns magenta and then red and then orange,etc. The sea turns blue to aqua to deep green. I thought it might have been a transfer trick, but the credits at the end stay a steady blue, so it might have been a visual effect that was placed on the film originally, or maybe a consequence of film printing process. Anyway, it looks mesmerizing from on a large color TV from DVD . One of the great old color films, along with "To Market part II" and "Rochester-City of Quality"
I like when it zooms in on the marquee showing "The Starcoss Story" because at that point I realize I have no idea what I am watching..
Subject: The Baseball Scene
About 5.5 minutes into the film you'll find a scene from the old Connie Mack Stadium. After some sleuthing, I found out that the runner rounding first was Jimmy Piersall of the Boston Red Sox. They were playing the Philadelphia A's at the opening game of the 1954 season. I made a panoramic image construction of this clip. You can find it here:
Other constructions from Prelinger films are here:
Subject: A Miracle? No.. But still good.
This nice looking film, sponsored by a Philadelphia television station, showcases everything Philadelphia and the surronding area had at the time. Although the quality sometimes varies, the color on most of these shots are (I think) Kodachrome quality. From industry to sports and culture, it's all here, and lively narrated.
Subject: 50 Turbulent Years
As a lifelong Philadelphia native, it is hard to watch this film and not be saddened. I have never once heard Philadelphia referred to as the "Miracle on the Delaware." Camden, New Jersey is certainly not Philadelphia's sister city, equal in prosperity, but a partially abandoned deindustrialized slum. The same goes for Chester, Bethlehem, and other cities shown in the film. The age of Philadelphia as a great shipping and industrial city is long gone, as are the coal mines and steel mills. In 1950 it must have seemed like the region's prosperity would continue forever, but much of the optimism was sadly unfounded. The movie's contention that Philadelphia was somehow spared the racketeering and corruption that plagued other port cities is doubtful, even in 1950, and mob influence continued until the trials of the 80s and 90s.
For any resident of Philadelphia, this film is an interesting look at what was and will never be again, a vibrant city at the height of its industrial power looking confidently into the future.
The TV station which produced this film, WPTZ, became KYW Channel 3 after being purchased by Westinghouse.